Despite an onslaught from Asia, Ford took honours at the first major motor show of the year, writes Paul Gover in Detroit
THE Koreans starred, the Japanese mounted a comeback, and One Ford hit the headlines with an extended family of Focus-based newcomers that are certain to make a big hit in Australia.
But it was one car and the commitment of its company chief that made the most impact as America fought back on the opening day of the 2011 North American International Motor Show.
Ford is posting huge profits and knows where it is going with everything from the Focus to the coming Escape and Explorer, and General Motors has trimmed for growth as well as previewing the Barina sedan and a couple of classy American hopefuls in motown on Monday morning.
But when Chrysler chief Olivier Francois got up to introduce the new 300C he talked openly about a company, and an industry, that is pulling itself up off the ropes to answer the bell for future sales.
‘‘It’s time for Chrysler to come back on to the automotive stage like this,’’ Francois says.
‘‘It’s time for a car that makes a bold statement without saying a word. It’s time for the torch of the most awarded car to be passed. And we did this with only one objective — to make it even better.’’
Chrysler says it spent more than $1 billion on the impressive looking 300C and it’s the standout American car at this year’s show.
But there is, as always, a lot more to see and understand.
When Hyundai turns the spotlight on its new Veloster and the Curb concept it gets a predictable reaction, but then it also talks reinventing the brand in the US.
Then Kia, which is using a couple of months of extra lead time on all the joint models it shares with Hyundai to do a better job, rolls out the adventurous KV7 concept.
The combined impact is great news for buyers but an awful effort for Japanese carmakers, since Korea is now doing a better job of Japanese-style vehicles and including the emotion that’s missing from contenders from the other country.
Honda does its best in Detroit by previewing the new Civic concept — it’s basically the production car and far more punchy than the underdone CRZ hybrid— but it could be too little too late for Japan, since Toyota has nothing new and Nissan is not at the show.
And BYD of China makes a splash as well, although its cars are early-Korean standard when you get up close.
Detroit has plenty of eye candy, from the race-bred Porsche 918 RSR to the plug-in electric SLS in safety vest yellow on the Mercedes-Benz stand and the huge selection of Boss 302 Mustangs on the Ford stand.
It seems every carmaker also has some form of plug-in electric car, hybrid or alternative energy vehicle, from the hybrid RSR on down.
But the company with the single most impressive exhibit, once you drill down a bit, is Ford.
Is is using the all-new Focus as the base to show what can be done in a One Ford world where spin-offs from a basic platform satisfy just about every showroom shopper.
There is everything from an allelectric Focus battery car to a hybrid, a C-Max mini people mover, the replacement for the Escape and more.
‘‘There are 10 different models, top hats, off the one platform. All on the one production line,’’ Ford CEO Alan Mulally says.
‘‘Henry Ford, in 1925, advertised opening the highways to all mankind. Making it affordable. We’re accelerating Henry’s original vision.’’